Going on a Mexican vacation is an endlessly fascinating and delicious escape. Its variety is extraordinary: One of the world’s largest cities, Mexico City, is a frenetic metropolis, yet contains quiet neighborhoods like Coyoacán, home to Frida Kahlo’s blue house, as well as lovely smaller cities where art and food and culture combine in peaceful surrounds. Its famous street food-tacos fill roadside stalls across the country, and the coastline offers the chance to dive and snorkel in subterranean water-filled caves. And then there’s Chichen Itzá, one of the most famous Mayan relics on Earth. We couldn’t possibly cover the top sights in one mere blog, but this is a roundup of some of our favorites.
Explore crazy, colorful Mexico City
Its population is a whopping 21 million. It’s a frenetic mega-city. It’s vibrant squares like Plaza de la Constitucion and Plaza Garibaldi buzz all day and night with visitors, locals, mariachi bands and street vendors. It’s leafy Coyoacán neighborhood is home to Frida Kahlo’s blue house, the studio where the iconic Mexican painter created her masterpieces. The pyramid-shaped archeological site Teotihuacán is only an hour away from the colonial building filled center, and the city’s culinary scene exceptional. From street stalls concocting simple beef tacos with fiery red and green salsa or moreish corn tamales to upmarket spots serving Mexican flavors like seafood and avocado salsa with a killer margarita to wash it down. Oh, plus giant ant eggs. Yes, it’s a thing here and considered a delicacy.
Discover Mayan Astronomy at Chichen Itzá, Yucatán
Yes, it’s crowded and there are hawkers everywhere and as you maneuver through the crowds you might think WHY am I here? But, this mammoth UNESCO-designated archeological site is a beauty and its stepped temples, pyramids and arcades exposes a tremendous amount about the Mayan belief of how the universe works and reveals how accurate and advanced Mayan astronomy was and how they cleverly devised a calendar within the structures. For example, each pyramid contains 365 steps (one for each day of the year), and on the spring and autumn equinox, a snake-shaped shadow appears on the pyramid. Tours explain this and more during your visit.
Eat your way through Oaxaca
Doubling as both a cultural and culinary hub, this colonial town is small and relaxed, with a hefty dose of art galleries, café culture dominating its leafy plazas and buzzy artisan markets. Its cuisine is known to be exceptionally varied, mixing up Mexican staples with indigenous cuisine specialties that yield from the breadth of the climate and landscapes present in the surroundings. Notable staples include chicken mole (made with chocolate) and , a type of pizza made with a corn tortilla topped with items like beans, tomato, avocado and meat. And don’t miss a chance to indulge in carne asada (grilled meat) –its available at many fine restaurants or at the many fondas (food stalls) in the famous market, Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Oaxaca is also home to mescal, a liquor similar to tequila, but its smokier and sweeter and made with several varieties of the agave plant. The town offers a clutch of several museums.
Chill out in San Miguel de Allende
This colonial town is best known for its lively restaurant and café scene, art galleries, cobblestoned streets and its pedestrian-friendly small town vibe. It’s anchored by the main square, Plaza Allende—also known as Jardin Principal. The plaza is lined with perfectly-restored structures in a rainbow of colors— from yellow and red and dusty pink and white—and is host to street performers and food stalls. Its manicured trees also provide an excellent source of shade on steamy days. Don’t miss the ochre-pink colored Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church with its spiky, ornate facade is spectacular and the Mercado de Artesanias (artisan market) where you can pick up a local handicraft.
Take clifftop Mayan ruins add the bright blue Caribbean and beaches with a bohemian vibe lure and it’s easy to see why Tulum lures more and more travelers to this chilled-out spot. It’s also a hub for divers and snorkelers, who come to explore the area’s famous cenotes, underwater caves and sinkholes filled with bright tropical fish. Tulum is also a big party destination, with a wide variety of bars and restaurants. Plus it’s a stone’s throw from two excellent eco-tourism destinations. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve offers wildlife watching (think monkeys, jaguars and ocelots) and Parque Ecológico Labnaha is full of adventure activities like ziplining and kayaking.
Embrace the rugged outdoors in Copper Canyon, Chihuahua
Copper Canyon, or Barranca del Cobre in Spanish, is a cluster of several distinct canyons in northern Mexico known for their greenish-copper color. It’s a popular outdoorsy area and the canyons are often explored on hiking, mountain biking or horseback-riding trips, or you can explore it from the comfort of a train aboard ‘El Chepe’, which winds along the steep cliffs and across bridges that traverse the gorges, while also stopping at several remote villages along the way.
Take a dip in the waterfalls of Chiapas
The most famous waterfall in Mexico, Agua Azul, is actually a series multiple cascades rushing across multiple tiers—the blue-turquoise water tumbles down the steps forming water pools at the bottom, an excellent spot to take a dip, enjoy the view and cool down. Popularity comes at a price though—the falls are often crowded to the max, so for a more relaxed waterfall visit check out nearby Roberto Barrios or Misol Ha waterfalls nearby.